HK$189,000 Hong Kong police payout over alleged Occupy assault could open door to more civil claims over disputed arrests
Painter Leung Wai-man first person to be compensated in out-of-court settlement for injuries suffered during civil disobedience campaign
Hong Kong police could face more civil claims over disputed arrests they made during the Occupy protests, after they had to pay HK$189,000 in compensation to a man who was allegedly assaulted by officers in 2014.
Leung Wai-man, 32, revealed his case to the media on Sunday as the first person to be compensated in an out-of-court settlement for injuries suffered when he was detained by police during the civil disobedience campaign by democracy activists.
His solicitor, Kenneth Lam, warned that it was not the end of the story as he urged the Department of Justice and police to take action against the officers accused of manhandling his client, who works as a painter and interior decorator.
Lam has also been handling several similar cases of residents making civil claims against police after suffering injuries during the protests that paralysed parts of Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok from September to December 2014.
Progressive Lawyers Group spokesman Jonathan Man Ho-ching said: “I think some people might have thought that it was difficult to make a civil claim against police, but now this case could encourage them to seek legal advice.”
The sit-in on the main streets of Mong Kok ended on November 26, 2014, but activists took their protests to crowded footpaths, and sporadic clashes broke out as police officers tried to prevent any reoccupation.
Leung said he was in Mong Kok on November 30 that year to dine with friends when police officers pushed him onto the ground without any warning.
“They twisted the fingers of my left hand and I suffered bone fractures on my wrist and had blood vessels broken in my eyes,” he said, recalling how he was arrested and charged with assaulting police.
The charge was dropped in January last year, but the painter could not work until he recovered from his injuries three months later. Leung also filed a complaint with police, “but it was not followed up on”, Lam added.
Leung later lodged a civil claim for HK$200,000 against police. The justice department, as the legal representative of the police force, told Lam in April this year that Leung would be paid HK$189,000 – if he kept the deal secret – a condition Leung rejected.
He finally received the government’s cheque on July 28.
A justice department spokesman said: “The case was settled out of court because it was the best solution.”
But Lam suggested it was because the government did not expect to win and was avoiding protracted legal battles.